Peter Brown back onboard with Sea Shepherd
This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.
Peter Brown, the activist and filmmaker who recently released a warts-and-all portrait of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in his documentary film, "Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist," is rejoining the crew for its annual Antarctic anti-whaling campaign after a two-year hiatus.
"I'm really looking forward to it. Paul's been really great this year, helping with ['Confessions']," Brown said, referring to Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson. "And we've been getting a lot closer. I'm looking forward to sailing with him."
The return is something of a surprise after Brown's acrimonious departure during Sea Shepherd's 2008-2009 winter campaign to stop Japanese whalers in the Antarctic. Those campaigns are the subject of the hit Animal Planet TV show, "Whale Wars," and in Seasons 1 and 2, Brown was made out to be something of a villain -– clashing with crew and camera people, and the subject of much side-interview sniping on the show. He left after a rope on a zodiac boat nearly cut his thumb off.
During two years off, Brown put together "Confessions," compiled from nearly 30 years of footage with the organization. It threatened to raise some hackles with the Sea Shepherd organization as it revealed how campaigns are improvised on the fly, including one incident in which Brown openly admitted he started a riot that resulted in Sea Shepherd officer Lisa DiStefano being dunked after indigenous Makah tribespeople pelted the two of them with rocks. Watson, however, has supported the film, saying his only beef is its name -– he doesn't like the comparison to terrorists -- and showed up for a premiere in Bermuda.
"I don't do this stuff for TV," Brown said. "I'm trying to stop whaling. Paul asked me to come back and I accepted."
Brown is set to rejoin the Sea Shepherd crew Dec. 6 in the harbor city of Fremantle, near Perth in Western Australia, to prepare for this winter’s anti-whaling campaign. He will be first mate on the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin -– named after the Australian star of the nature program "Crocodile Hunter."
Brown is a veteran Sea Shepherd campaigner, having joined the group in 1981. He is also a veteran of TV, having produced and directed the proto-reality show "Real People" beginning in the 1970s. He was also an original producer for "Entertainment Tonight."
A fifth season of "Whale Wars" has yet to be announced or confirmed, but Brown says it doesn't matter to him if the show's crew comes along.
"I think it's the end of the line for the Japanese whalers this year," he said during a talk outside a Santa Monica coffeehouse. "They really should have given it up last year. They went home early, they didn't get their quota."
"But instead of realizing that maybe whaling should be done forever, they go back and they have an earthquake, they have a tsunami, they have a nuclear accident. And yet, they're going to subsidize a whaling fleet to tune of $200 million to go down there again, plus $27 million more in extra security. And why? They don't want to surrender to Sea Shepherd. It's not that they need whales to feed people."
Brown said his next film project will be a "Roger & Me"-type documentary project in which he visits whaling nations and confronts them directly on their home turf. But, in the meantime, he's bringing that high-energy confrontation back to the boat.
"Paul knew the trouble 'Whale Wars' caused me, so it'll be much better this time. I won't be dancing around, worried about hurting people's feelings. It's on!" he laughed. "Hang on for the ride, you're on the Peter Brown show!"
[For the Record, 2 p.m. Nov. 23, 2011: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that Brown would be captain on the Steve Irwin. He will be first mate.]
Sea Shepherd documentary "Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist": Violent and comical
-- Dean Kuipers
Photo: Peter Brown is set to captain the vessel Steve Irwin when the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society returns to Antarctic waters in December to fight the Japanese whaling fleet. Credit: Kelsey Stevens